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Design Through Time

Royal Exchange Building

Illustration of the Royal Exchange; Libraries, Leisure & Culture Dundee

If you were told Dundee had its very own Leaning Tower of Pisa, would you believe it?

 Probably not. It’s unlikely that you would stroll past Royal Exchange and watch thousands of tourists posing for a photograph, pushing the air in a poor attempt to prop the building upright.

 The Royal Exchange is situated on Panmure Street adjacent to The McManus; you may have sipped a pint in it! Although Brewdog now occupies the lower half of the building, the Royal Exchange has previously hosted Dundee’s Chamber of Commerce and city stock exchange. Inspired by Flemish Cloth Halls, the building was designed after the city decided to gather all the principal institutions to The Meadows in the early nineteenth century. However, this could be considered one of Dundee’s great design fails.

Libraries, Leisure and Culture Dundee
Current day Royal Exchange, Eirinn Leigh Reay

 Dundee’s water source, the Scouring Burn, pooled at The Meadows forming the town’s millpond. It was previously a place for bleaching linen and hosting fairgrounds, but now an area of weak foundations. Due to the unstable marshland, the Victorian architect David Bryce had to revise his design three times! His original plans featured a steeple with a two-tier octagonal extension to the tower, capped by an arched crown spire. Crown spires were symbolic of national freedom, so you will often find notable Scottish buildings adorned with them. Sadly, the Crown spire only amounted to architectural drawings when construction began. The building quickly began to sink, and the gothic parapet that we still see today replaced the ornate tower.

 Even after the amendments, the Royal Exchange still sits at an angle claimed to be greater than Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa. You should prepare your disposable camera sooner rather than later, as everyone will be desperate to get a picture with Dundee’s new tourist hotspot!

Words and research by Eirinn Leigh Reay